Researchers said the results surprised them. Much of the anti-vaccine content published on social media platforms, such as Facebook and Twitter, appears to be organic discussions led by neighborhood groups and affected parents, said David Broniatowski, a professor of engineering management at George Washington University , and one of the authors of the new study.
"In fact," said Broniatowski, who examines the group's decision-making, "we see a small number of motivated interests trying to spread a lot of harmful content. The small group of buyers of vaccine-protection advertising successfully used the advertising,
The study was conducted before Facebook changed its guidelines for vaccine protection advertising, but researchers said it was used to throw a look at the platform to spread misinformation Amelia Jamison, a social science researcher at the University of Maryland and another study author, stated that the report in the journal Vaccine is the first to investigate anti-vaccine ads in the Facebook advertising archive.The platform, a publicly available and searchable repository, was introduced by Facebook in 201
8 to improve transparency regarding certain forms of advertising which are classified as "of national importance". The social media giant has repeatedly come under fire for allowing the promotion of anti-vaccine material.
In recent years, false claims in social media about vaccines have led to more and more parents shying away or delaying the vaccination of their children. Misinformation and skepticism about the safety of the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine contributed significantly to the almost one-year measles outbreak in the US, which ended in October. The potentially fatal disease rose to 1,261 cases this year, the highest in nearly three decades. Anti-vaccine activists also spread misinformation about vaccine-preventable diseases and downplay their danger.
Earlier this year, The Post reported on a wealthy couple in Manhattan who proved to be major financiers of the anti-vaccine movement. Hedge fund manager and philanthropist Bernard Selz and his wife Lisa have spent more than $ 3 million over the last few years to a handful of activists who have played an overseas role in the vaccine movement.
Another Key Vaccine Actor in Advertising and Support is Attorney Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., a nephew of President John F. Kennedy, who leads the Child Health Service, which is closely linked to the World Mercury Project. The overall message from the group falsely states that vaccines contribute to a variety of childhood illnesses. In May, Kennedy was publicly criticized by his brother, sister and niece, who said he had helped spread "dangerous misinformation through social media and sowing distrust of the science behind vaccines."
The Stop Mandatory Vaccination group is headed by Larry Cook, who calls himself a "natural life lawyer", states on his website that he uses donations to, among other things, Facebook advertising, including his personal bills, to pay. "All donations go straight to me and to my bank account," he writes on the website. Many advertisements funded by his group reportedly described infants allegedly harmed by vaccines.
Broniatowski and colleagues from the University of Maryland and Johns Hopkins University searched Facebook's ad archive, now known as the ad library, two times after vaccine-targeted ads: December 2018 and February this year. Of 309 relevant advertisements, 163 were pro-vaccines and 145 anti-vaccines. The messages promoting vaccination did not have a common or organized theme or a common donor. They focused on vaccinating people against a specific disease, such as ads for a flu vaccine clinic, or were part of the Gates Foundation's campaign against polio.
Despite a similar number of ads, there were 83 different vaccine-sponsoring groups, while five groups accounted for 75 percent of anti-vaccine messages. The two most important ones were the World Mercury Project and Stop Mandatory Vaccination.
Many vaccine ads were discontinued by Facebook, researchers found, because first-time buyers did not fill in the necessary information to disclose their funding. This leads to the accidental removal of scientifically based information .
"People are not being punished for the content, but for being unfamiliar with the platform," Broniatowski said. This is a trend for companies that have more resources and are familiar with Facebook advertising, and pointed to the two groups that finance most of the anti-vaccine messages. "They are very, very, very used to this platform and know how to use it effectively."
An ad of the Utah Cancer Control Program on cancer prevention with the HPV vaccine was discontinued by Facebook, for example, because Facebook's decision to categorize vaccines as a topic of "national importance" also frames the topic as a debate and not as an issue of broad public approval and scientific consensus. Researchers said. [March59002] In March, Facebook announced increasing public pressure to reject ads containing "misinformation about vaccines" as part of a broader crackdown on vaccine conspiracy theories on the platform, and to block commercials containing incorrect content vaccines.
"We tackle vaccine misinformation on Facebook by reducing its prevalence and connecting people with authoritative information from experts on the website," said a Facebook company spokesperson. "We work with leading public health organizations such as the World Health Organization, which has publicly identified inoculation scams, and if these scams appear on Facebook, we will take action against them – including disapproving ads."